Steve McQueen as Thomas Crown, millionaire playboy and heist mastermind
Crane Beach, Massachusetts, Summer 1968
Film: The Thomas Crown Affair
Release Date: June 19, 1968
Director: Norman Jewison
Costume Designer: Alan Levine
Amidst all of the robberies and intrigue in The Thomas Crown Affair, Steve McQueen’s titular character decides to head off to the local beach with new girlfriend (sort of) in tow.
From his romp in the sand, Crown offers viewers advice on just what to bring for a quick beach getaway.
What’d He Wear?
Thomas Crown dresses for a day at the beach in a peachy orange lightweight shirt with six white buttons down a front placket. There are also two chest pockets that close with a single button through a rectangular flap. This type of shirt is meant to be worn casually untucked and is split on each side of the straight-cut hem for more comfort. It is long-sleeved, but Crown unbuttons the cuffs and rolls the sleeves halfway up his forearm to go with his devil-may-care persona.
McQueen wears his usual gold St. Christopher medallion, a large round pendant worn around his neck on a thin gold chain.
Update! In September 2020, Mason & Sons announced that they were recreating this shirt in a beach-ready “soft cotton and linen mix” for their catalog, as they discussed with the hosts of From Tailors With Love in the same episode featuring yours truly.
Crown’s dark navy swimming trunks have a short inseam with a very short split hem on each side. They are detailed with white contrast stitching throughout.
For his afternoons in the dune buggy and cooler evenings by the fire, Crown sports a classic cream-colored wool cable-knit fisherman’s sweater with a heavy-ribbed crew-neck collar and cuffs. This type of sweater, also known as an “Aran jumper” from its origins in the Aran Islands, is often associated with overly masculine types such as Hemingway.
Sweaters like these are known for their bulk as well as their prominent patterns down the chest. The commonly patterns are considered symbolic; the honeycomb signifies hard work, the cable wishes for safety and good luck for fishermen, the diamond wishes for success, and the basket stitch hopes for a plentiful catch. Since we don’t see Crown actually doing any fishing, perhaps the sweater is for safety and good luck while dunebuggying?
Crown ditches the swimming shorts when not going in the water, instead wearing a pair of very light wash blue denim jeans. He also wears a plain dark navy blue fitted baseball cap with a curved brim.
Crown’s jacket for these cool nights on the beach appeared at first—to me, anyway—to be a dark canvas windbreaker, but a closer look determines that it is in fact a black waxed cotton motorcycle jacket, very appropriate for McQueen and likely his own personal Belstaff jacket. This is confirmed by matching up the zipper front, collar snaps, and buttons visible in the film to a behind-the-scenes photo of McQueen on set.
Crown also wears his signature Persol 714 sunglasses with “Havana” tortoiseshell frames. However, these do not have the custom blue lenses as worn earlier in the film with his glen plaid three-piece suit. Instead, they have the stock brown lenses that are still offered on the Persol website as option code 24/31.
Go Big or Go Home
One notable difference between Thomas Crown’s beach experience and your past beach experience is that Crown has a dune buggy. (Unless, of course, you have one.)
Crown’s buggy, which Steve McQueen reportedly helped to design, is a TCA buggy on a modified Meyers Manx body with an early Volkswagen chassis. It was built by Pete Condos and Eckley Turr at Conn-Ferr. A Corvair engine was installed in the rear, either 140 hp or 230 hp, depending on the source. The large racing tires were Firestone with extra-wide rear wheels cast specially by American racing. The engine adaptor was made by Ted Trevor and the transaxle was a swing-axle with a flipped ring and pinion.
The interior was the work of Tony Nancy, using Datsun Fairlady seats and a flat aluminum plate for the dashboard. The buggy in the film used the flat tonneau cover with a luggage rack, but two covers were made.
Most of this information was in the April 2005 issue of Kit Car Builder Magazine as well as McQueen Online, a great site dedicated to the actor. McQueen did all of is own stunts, reporting that “it’s very light” as he drove the thousand-pound vehicle all around the beach, while Faye Dunaway bravely sat beside the daredevil actor. After the film’s completion, McQueen bought the dune buggy and sold it to a Manx dealer, who in turn sold it to its current owner in Hawaii.
When not racing around the beach on his dune buggy, Crown relaxes with Vicki, drinking beer or red wine, depending on the time of day. The wine, which they enjoy in tin cups, is almost certainly unidentifiable but the gold-labelled beer bottles, seen in above photos, may yield some identification. Any idea what they might be?
How to Get the Look
Thomas Crown’s beach apparel is best suited for more temperate environs such as coastal New England; a bulky sweater wouldn’t be the best idea when packing for the tropics. Pack the following to prepare for any weather during your beach trip:
- Orange lightweight cotton long-sleeve shirt with button-flapped chest pockets
- Dark navy short-inseam swimming trunks with white stitched seams
- Cream cable-knit wool Aran fisherman’s sweater with a thick-ribbed crew neck and cuffs
- Black waxed cotton Belstaff motorcycle jacket with a button/zip front and large snap-fastened collar
- Light blue wash denim jeans
- Dark navy baseball cap
And to accessorize both…
- Persol 714 sunglasses with tortoiseshell frames and brown lenses
- Gold St. Christopher medallion/pendant on a thin gold necklace
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.